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Isis ordered terror plot suspect ‘to hit France’

UPDATED: One of the young Islamic radicals suspected of plotting to decapitate a French army officer has said that an IS jihadist told him to "hit" France, a prosecutor said on Friday.

Isis ordered terror plot suspect 'to hit France'
Fort Bear, where the three allegedly planned to kidnap and behead an army officer. Photo: AFP

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said on Friday that the youngest of three suspects in custody — aged only 17 — was given the
order when it became clear he would not be able to leave the country to wage jihad in Syria because he was under surveillance.

The teenager and two other young Islamic radicals are all set to appear before a judge on Friday when they are expected to be charged with terrorism offences. The three young men, including a former naval signalman, were arrested earlier this week and have been questioned by France's intelligence services.

They are accused of plotting to kidnap and decapitate a member of the armed forces at a military base.

They were transferred to Paris on Thursday evening and will appear before a judge in the capital on Friday, after which they are expected to be charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. 

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said security forces had staged dawn raids on Monday and arrested four people, aged between 16 and 23, who were “planning to commit a terrorist act” at a French military installation.

The youngest was quickly released but the other three are suspected of planning to kidnap and behead a member of the military on film, possibly on December 31 when the facility was thinly staffed.

(Fort Bear, where the three allegedly planned to kidnap and behead an army officer. Photo: AFP)

The oldest of the group served as a navy signalman at the base around the southern town of Collioure, which is also used for training by elite commando forces.

Identified only as Djebril, he was discharged from the navy in January 2014 for back problems, said a source close to the investigation, and the target is thought to have been his former boss.

The other key plotter was just 17, and was already being closely watched by authorities due to his activities on social media and connections to French jihadists in prison.

All three had been planning to travel to jihadist-controlled areas of Syria, the security source said, but the 17-year-old's mother became concerned about his radicalisation and contacted the authorities.

He was interviewed by counter-terrorism officials and was aware he was under surveillance.

“They claim to be part of Daesh,” said a source close to the investigation, using an alternative Arabic acronym to refer to the jihadist Islamic State group that controls swathes of Syria and Iraq.

France remains on high alert more than six months after jihadist attacks in January that claimed 17 lives and started with shootings at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
   
“We are facing a terrorist threat that we have never seen before — an external threat and an internal threat,” said Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Thursday.
   
Although the foiled assault was planned around the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, none of the three alleged plotters indicated that the date was chosen deliberately for this reason.

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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